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Atlas Fallen – Review in 3 Minutes

Atlas Fallen Review in 3 Minutes: Deck 13's tight gameplay loop of fun exploration and thrilling high stakes combat make up for its flaws.

Atlas Fallen is an open-world third-person action-adventure game from Deck 13, the studio behind the first Lords of the Fallen and The Surge series. Atlas Fallen breaks from their previous efforts to replicate the souls formula, and instead blends high mobility with spectacle combat and 3D platforming set in a fantasy world being drained of life. Here’s our Atlas Fallen review.

You are an Unnamed, a societal caste so lowly that its members are not given names. You and your people are forced to toil for the sake of an immortal Queen and religious order who worship the god Thelos by forcing your kind to mine a mystical natural resource called essence; a process that is turning the planet into mostly desert.

When dangerous wraiths born of the sands attack your caravan, you stumble across a long forgotten gauntlet that whispers to you its desire to stop the queen, restore the lands, and kill Thelos. I grew to like the game’s setting as its central conflict began to take better shape over its roughly 13 hour runtime, but I consistently found it difficult to connect with or even remember several recurring characters. A combination of lackluster character designs and often stilted voice performances left me with little patience for the world’s generally boring lore. Even your own fully voiced protagonist lacks any personality, with many dialog options that very clearly don’t matter.

But where the storytelling struggles, the gameplay picks up the pieces. The simple act of traversal in Atlas Fallen is incredibly fun, including your double jump, a super-floaty air dash, and the ability to slide across sand at high speed. You’re quickly tasked with finding a number of magical shards, meant to make your gauntlet strong enough to challenge Thelos, which are often rewarded for clearing fights, puzzles, and character quests. The game’s large open biomes boast lots of verticality and create joyful playgrounds for both your platforming and sand sliding, with a ridiculous amount of shiny collectables and chests for you to addictively hunt down.

As you explore, wraiths dot the landscape and can ambush you from beneath the sand. Combat looks fast paced but actually feels a lot more methodical using its momentum system to make every encounter a much more thoughtful risk vs reward gamble.  As you attack enemies you fill a momentum gauge with 3 tiers of active and passive abilities tied to them. 

The damage you deal and receive will also greatly increase the higher the tier you reach, so while higher tiers can grant you some incredibly cool abilities like setting off a crystalline explosion or spawning a tornado, you may want to burn that gauge to use your dramatic shatter attack and help turn the tides of an encounter. Those abilities are tied to essence stones which you collect, craft, and slot into the differing tiers of your momentum bar, and will only be active once you reach their corresponding tier in combat. It’s a deep system with a lot of options, yet it’s relatively easy to understand once you fiddle with it a bit.

The sand wraiths come in a small variety, and you’ll engage them on the ground and in the air. The handful of elite wraith types have a distinct look and require some knowledge of their attack patterns and abilities to defeat, but the initial challenge fades as you upgrade your own skills and the enemies only pile on additional waves and health bars in an attempt to keep up. Bigger story specific boss fights try out a few extra platforming mechanics that help shake things up, but the combat stays entertaining largely due to the essence stone experimentation and the great presentation of your epic battles.

The action is wonderfully over the top using hit stun, slow motion, and sound design to great effect, whole-heartedly selling the immense scale of your engagements. It can sometimes become a bit of a visual mess though, with whirling sand storms, flashing indicators, and finicky camera angles all making enemies and their attacks impossible to see, but thanks to a quality auto-save function, defeat for those reasons never stung for too long.

Atlas Fallen at first may lose your attention with its dull characters and world, but will immediately wrestle it back with a tight gameplay loop of fun exploration and thrilling high stakes combat. The game is out August 9th for $49.99 on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.

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About the author

KC Nwosu
KC Nwosu has been making video game content for nearly half a decade. He also streams with his son Starboy who has legitimately won a Mario Kart race against him.